Sunday morning: sitting, praying. I have taken to moving my chair to face the window so I look out on the simple morning light. I tend to alternate between journaling and a still and silent awareness of being this body.
I say ‘praying’ but really I am pondering what I want to do today: what would be satisfying and meaningful? I realise that I am not very present, that I am not praying, that I am “worried and distracted.” Nothing new! With a bit of an effort, I lay these thoughts to one side and I settle back into this body. I now know what I want: I want to be here doing ’nothing’. To sit like this is meaningful and satisfying. I am alive. I am a place where life is happening.
Out of the blue, John Lennon’s song, “God”, surfaces out of long-term memory and starts to play in my mind’s jukebox.
I don’t believe in magic
I don’t believe in I Ching
I don’t believe in the Bible
I don’t believe in tarot
I don’t believe in Hitler
I don’t believe in Jesus
I don’t believe in Kennedy
I don’t believe in Buddha
I don’t believe in mantra
I don’t believe in Gita
I don’t believe in yoga
I don’t believe in kings
I don’t believe in Elvis
I don’t believe in Zimmerman
I don’t believe in Beatles
I just believe in meJohn Lennon, “God” [YouTube] [Wikipedia]
Yoko and me
And that’s reality
I love music. It refreshes the soul other art forms cannot reach. When a piece of music announces itself like this, I assume it is meaningful.
This song is on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, his first album after the breakup of the Beatles. I used to be a big Beatles fan and this record is part of the soundtrack of my life in the early 1970s. It is full of hurt and loneliness and questions which appealed to my adolescent state. I liked the raw simplicity of the production. I liked the truth that John Lennon spoke – his truth, his looking for meaning and healing, not hiding his grandiosity.
Although I liked this song musically, I was never convinced by the lyrics. I am moved by the turn of the music and the tenderness of the piano accompaniment when he sings, “I just believe in me.” But I used to think the idea narcissistic, though I wouldn’t have used that word at the time.
So why has this song come back? Contrary to the tag line for The X-files, the truth is not out there. Each object on Lennon’s hit-list points to the truth but is not the truth. The fixation on heroes – Hitler, Kennedy, Elvis, Dylan, The Beatles – was illusory: someone else’s story. The Bible points at God. Jesus points at Abba. The Buddha is a finger pointing at the moon.
The truth is not out there. Withdraw the projection. The truth is in here. This is what he means by, “I just believe in me … and that’s reality.”
‘I’ – this thinking, imagining, desiring, future-focused self – settles back into, and becomes coterminous with this body. I am my body. I am home.
But how tense I am!
When I am not at home – when my mind has stepped out and has wandered off down the cul-de-sacs of regret (past) and anxiety (future) – my body gets lonely and anxious and tightens up: pelvic floor; thighs, shoulder joints, wrists and forearms, palms and soles of my feet: all on tenterhooks. I am not aware of this because I am not at home. The mind is not coterminous with the body. When I come back home, this body needs healing attention to let it know that we are safe.
The body is not a vehicle for some incorporeal self. this body is a place where God is happening. For sure, God is happening everywhere, in everything, in everyone. And this body is where God is happening in this little patch of The World. I will find the truth here.
When we take up occupation of the site of our bodies in stillness before God, we are granted a place to be, simply in virtue of being there as material beings made by God.Rowan Williams: Lear and Eurydice
Coming Home: two retreat days
I am offering another couple of Retreat Days on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 June, 10am–5pm.
The truth is that we are always home. On this retreat day, we will explore coming home to our bodies, to ourselves, to the present and The Presence, and to our place and purpose in the world.
I will be sending out an invitation very soon. Please contact me if you are interested in coming on one of these retreat days.
2 thoughts on “Coterminous”
Thank you and well done, Julian, once again. Another moving, lyrical piece of writing, heartfelt and embodied, authentic and inspiring. It certainly helps me to be reminded once again of your lovely expression ‘this body is a place where God is happening’. My experience with the Alexander Technique is another such ever-deepening engagement with ’embodied God-ness’: life-giving, healing, exciting and true! I appreciate you!
Thank you, Anna. Sadly, that is not really my phrase, but Rowan Williams’ from his book, “Being Human”.